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Sling Blade [Blu-ray]
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171 of 185 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
With the parodies and jokes surrounding the lead character of this film stating, "I like the way you talk," I was not expecting this film to be anything I'd be impressed with. Boy, was I wrong. This a fantastic film.
Billy Bob Thornton plays Karl Childers, a man about to be released from a mental hospital after staying there for 30 years. Karl killed his own mother and her lover when he was only about 12 years old and you wonder from the beginning of this film - why are they letting him out?
Some people call him slow, some people say he's retarded - but as each scene comes and goes, you realize that there is a lot more going on inside Karl's head than anyone else believes.
While autism is not mentioned by name in the film, it's obvious that this character was modeled after an autistic person. He does not maintain eye contact and rarely exhibits emotion or speaks.
He returns to his childhood hometown after being released from the hospital and puts his mechanical skills to good use as a small engine wiz at a local mechanic shop.
He befriends Frank (Lucas Black), a young boy who reminds Karl of the kind of life he could have had, if he had only had different parents. Frank's mother has a psycho for a boyfriend (masterfully played by Dwight Yoakum) who treats Frank and his mother like garbage and threatens to kill them if the relationship ever ends.
Small town folks have big hearts, but sometimes small minds. Frank's mother (Natalie Camerday) has a best friend who is gay (well acted by John Ritter) and he must hide his relationships from the townsfolk. Her friend Vaughn wants to go to a a bigger city with wider acceptance of his lifestyle, but he continues to stay to act as a guardian angel for his friend and her son.
As Karl meets and interacts with the new friends (and enemies) he meets, he reveals some of his darker secrets with his friend, Frank. While he shows almost no emotion, Karl's story evokes tears from all but the most stony-hearted viewer. He not only feels great pain of what he has experienced and what he has done, he feels great empathy for Frank and his mother and holds their friendship dear to his heart.
There is violence in the film, but the most violent of scenes is just audible - nothing is seen, just heard. This film is too intense for young viewers, but teenagers should have no problem with it.
This film really makes you think - about what goes on in the minds of those who are mentally different in any way - and how all emotions are universal.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2003
Format: DVD
This movie won the Academy Award for best screenplay, and it's very easy to see why it was deserving of the acclaim that it received.
The movie centers around Carl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton), a mentally retarded man who has just been released from a mental hospital after spending most of his life there. He's a convicted murderer who killed his own mother and her lover, but the audience is made to love him from the beginning and feel sympathy for his situation. He befriends a young boy named Frank who is being raised by a single mother who has an abusive boyfriend. The movie centers around the growing friendship between Carl and Frank, and how Carl decides to take matters into his own hands in order to protect Frank and his mother from the abusive boyfriend.
The strength of this movie is in the acting job by Thornton. His character is a cross between Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird (by Harper Lee) and Lenny from Of Mice And Men (by John Steinbeck). While the audience is suspicious of Carl at the beginning of the movie because of his history, we are quickly assured that he is extremely gentle and kind. Also of note is the performance by Dwight Yoakam as the abusive boyfriend. You'll really hate his character, which obviously means that Yoakam did a great acting job.
Overall, this is an excellent movie. It's definitely worth seeing.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2000
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
A little-known fact: Billy Bob Thornton--star, director and writer of this amazing film--is the greatest southern voice since William Faulkner. This film is essential southern gothic retooled for the New South of mini-malls and subdivisions. The old demons still lurk, most graphically through Doyle (played remarkably by Dwight Yoakam). Watch for a cameo appearance from indie/y'allternative musician Vic Chesnutt! Besides being an incredibly important film about the South, it's emotional rollercoaster ride: from Carl (Thornton) and his shocking past, to the awkwardness of his first days away from institutionalization, to the amazing paternal relationship he forges with a neglected boy--the one person who will accept him unconditionally. Heart-wrenching, dark and beautiful.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
We know well the visage of the desolate, decadent, sometimes lascivious Southern landscape from the works of William Faulkner and others. Not unlike Faulkner, Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade guides us guiltily toward the region's historical and modern undercurrents of social prejudices, ignored dysfunction, sought acceptance, and resulting violence. The film addresses a universal human condition, however, and not the region.
The title of the film looms over the audience as Thornton urges fondness while successfully negotiating the fine line between our fear of, and affection for Karl Childers (Thornton), a recently released mental patient committed as a child for violently murdering his mother and her boyfriend. Sling Blade is a study in tension with thick suspense built through superior character development resulting in conflicts that escalate into deliberate, almost real-time rhythms.
The story is one of need and moreover of acceptance, as the collection of limping characters, directly or not, seek it, and to some degree, with the help of Karl, attain it. The boy, Frank (Lucas Black), seeks the love of a father figure after the suicide of his own. Linda, the mother (Natalie Canderday), requires the general acceptance of her perceived role as a Southern woman, and subsequently the acceptance from a mate, which is evident in her destructive dependence upon her demonic, red-neck boyfriend, Doyle (Dwight Yoakam). Her own deep need renders her perhaps overly accepting of others, including Karl, whom most mothers wouldn't let within ten feet of there sons. Vaughn (John Ritter), like the others, seeks love, and on an outward scale, struggles with his half-open homosexuality in the small Southern town. Doyle, not unlike Linda, wants acceptance of his perceived role as a family head and wants to be loved as well, but lacks even the basic tools to a gain it. And finally Karl, the most dynamic character in the film, seeks acceptance only from himself as he works to garner love and to construct some semblance of a life within the limited bounds of his mental capacity, his stunted development, and his own set of morals.
While the climax of the film is somewhat telegraphed, it is more inevitable than predictable, and the audience is left alone with the wonderment and self-examination over the questionable choice of a sympathetic character. From Sling Blade we leave with the unsolicited lesson that tenderness and brutality sometimes share the same origin.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Blu-ray
Billy Bob Thornton is a perfect example of a starving actor who came from Arkansas with a friend and despite having a few appearances on television and film, it was not until 1996 when the actor's short film and screenplay known as "Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade" was adapted to a full-feature film. Written and directed by Thornton ("Monster's Ball", "Eagle Eye", "Mr. Woodcock", "The Alamo", "Bad Santa", etc.), "Sling Blade" was the film that launched his career and earn him an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and a nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role and receive critical acclaim.

Shot with a small budget of uner a $1,000,000, the independent film would earn over $24 million domestically at the box office and would become a big hit worldwide.

The film would star John Ritter ("8 Simple Rules...For Dating My Teenage Daughter", "Three's Company", "Clifford", etc.), J.T. Walsh ("The Negotiator", "Pleasantville" and "Nixon"), Country singer Dwight Yoakam ("Crank" and "Panic Room"), Lucas Black ("The Miracle Worker", "Friday Night Lights", "Jarhead", etc.), Natalie Canerday ("Walk the Line" and "October Sky") and Robert Duvall ("The Godfather", Days of Thunder" and "Colors").


It's important to let people know that this film was an Independent film made for under a million dollars and shot in 24 days. In fact, during the filming, the producers didn't have all the money set while filming "Sling Blade", so this is not exactly a film to expect caliber film material used during filming.

"Sling Blade" is featured on High Definition for the first time. The film receives a 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) transfer and for the most part, the film looks good on Blu-ray. For a film that is 15 years old, there are parts with occasional dust but for a classic film, Miramax has opted for no DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) and kept the grain intact. I do feel that Billy Bob Thornton found a very good director with Barry Markowitz to capture the feel of a small town. Capturing the detail of the shop that Karl works at to the look and feel of the film that makes you wonder if it's late 1950's America or modern America. Of course, it's the latter but the fact is that Thornton with Markowitz are able to capture look and feel of that small town quite well on film. Could it have been better if they using high end equipment, possibly. But for what they had at their disposal with the small budget they had to work with, you can't help but be proud at what this crew was able to accomplish.

As for audio, the film is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (also Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital). The film is definitely dialogue driven. This is not a film with sound effects or a film that will utilize the entire soundscape. But what was important for Billy Bob Thornton was to capture the audio and making sure that sound was clear (especially during Robert Duvall's scene) and most of all, the music of Daniel Lanois was used effectively. There is a featurette dedicated to the use of music in the film but for the most part, this is a front and center channel driven film.

It's important to note that with this Blu-ray release, picture quality is much clearer. Where the original DVD has its share of digital compression artifacts, it not as prominent on the Blu-ray release. Also, the lossless soundtrack is clear and pristine and definitely, watching this film on HD was awesome!

Subtitles featured are in English SDH and Spanish.


"Sling Blade" comes with the following special features featured in 480i Standard Definition and English 2.0 Dolby Digital:

* Audio Commentary by Writer/Director/Actor Billy Bob Thornton - A very informative commentary by Billy Bob Thornton. Who goes into detail of how certain shots were created. The talents on the film and shooting with a low budget with a tight schedule. Overall, a very enjoyable commentary.
* Mr. Thornton Goes To Hollywood - (1:06:51) A featurette about Billy Bob Thornton's rise to fame. From living in Arkansas and he and a friend moving to California and living with little money, Thornton working odd jobs and eventually getting a job at Shakey's pizza and his struggles as an actor. Interviews with people close to Thornton including friends, former girlfriend that is a producer and many others who give us an idea of what kind of man Billy Bob Thornton is.
* Bravo Profiles: Billy Bob Thornton - (43:24) An older featurette that features Billy Bob Thornton during the time he was married with Angelina Jolie. Interviews with Matt Damon, Angelina and other talents and people who have worked with Billy Bob. I have to admit, this featurette took place during a time when he and Angelina Jolie were a hot couple and with a really good featurette with "Mr. Thornton Goes to Hollywood", this is one featurette I wouldn't mind if it was cut out. It's more or less a rehash of the previous featurette but with interviews with his now ex-wife and a few other talents.
* A Roundtable Discussion with Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Mickey Jones and Producer David Bushell - (1 hr., 15 min.) A very cool roundtable with everyone talking about their memories of the film ten years later. From how Lucas Black was cast, their memories of John Ritter and J.T. Walsh, shooting on a small budget and in 24-days, hiring his high school buddy Rick Dial for the film and how he has appeared in other films since then, working with Robert Duvall and also discussing about the one person in Hollywood who disliked the film and the script. An all out, no holds barred roundtable discussion. Very entertaining to watch.
* A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall - (8:31) Billy Bob Thornton's movie legends was Robert Duvall and so Billy Bob talked about how he met Robert and how they have enjoyed working with each other. Robert Duvall remembers working with Thornton especially the place that they ate.
* A Conversation with Robert Duvall - (7:35) Robert Duvall talks about working with Billy Bob Thornton and why the film worked.
* A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Composer Daniel Lanois - (22:59) Featuring Daniel Lanois performing "Omni" and an interview how Billy Bob Thornton came to select Daniel to create the music for the film, how Daniel enjoyed creating the music for the film and working with Billy Bob and more. Also, creating music for certain scenes and their favorite musical scene in the film.
* The Return of Karl - (3:40) A rehearsal of Billy Bob on the set as Karl (improvising with crew).
* On the Set: There are a total of three small featurettes in this segment. Billy Bob at Work (4:39) which is behind-the-scenes footage of Billy Bob working with his cinematographer. Doyle's Bad: The Johnsons (1:44) the filming of that scene when the band is playing. Doyle Gets Pummeled (1:53) - Watching the filming of the intense scene when Doyle gets drunk and Frank defends his mother.
* "Doyle's Dead" with Introduction by Billy Bob Thornton - (4:23) A scene that was shot with two of the band members from the Johnson's trying to make music after the death of Doyle. There is an introduction by Billy Bob Thornton and why he did use this segment in the film.


When watching the "Mr. Thornton Goes to Hollywood" featurette. About 52:08 minutes into the featurette, a white silhouette featuring Karl sitting in a recliner will show up. Click on that symbol and sure enough a 21: second video features Billy Bob Thornton as Karl and Lucas Black as Frank starts playing.


There is no doubt that "Sling Blade" is a powerful and magnificent performance by Billy Bob Thornton.

This was a film that was planned very well and Billy Bob Thornton has discussed shooting the film in 24 days, writing the film in 9 writing days and shooting the film for over $900,000. This is Independent filmmaking at its finest. The ability to create a film that feels so natural, to shoot in a town that just feels right for the film and to cast well-known stars that you don't realize who they are until a few minutes later and realize that Doyle is Dwight Yoakam and Vaughan is John Ritter and of course, to see this transformation of Billy Bob Thornton to Karl is amazing.

Needless to say, this film is a true masterpiece and screenwriting at its best. Rarely do you see a film written, directed and starring an actor that would receive such worldwide critical acclaim, shot on a shoestring budget and to be enjoyed by so many people.

And here we are with the Blu-ray release that pretty much marks nearly the 15th year anniversary of the film. It's important to note that this release is NOT the same as the 10th Anniversary Original Cut which is about 148 minutes long. This is the theatrical cut which works perfectly. The Original Cut just went too long and I'm glad Miramax opted for the theatrical cut.

So, for those who are wondering if it's worth the double dip, especially if you own the 10th Anniversary DVD, my answer is yes. You get the film in High Definition video and the lossless soundtrack. Granted, this film was a low-budget independent film but the detail is much more clearer than its DVD counterpart and the lossless soundtrack is much more clearer, especially the music of Daniel Lanois. For the most part, the same special features from the 10th Anniversary DVD release are included on this Blu-ray. I would not discard the 10th Anniversary DVD because that version is the "original cut" at 148 minutes. I do prefer the theatrical cut featured on the Blu-ray at 135 minutes.

If there was anything that I wish was included on the Blu-ray is the short film "Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade" which stars Billy Bob Thornton and Molly Ringwald. It would have been nice to see the short film which inspired the adaptation to a full-length film.

Overall, "SLING BLADE" is a film that is solidified itself as a movie classic. A film that will touch people on many different layers due to its brilliant performances from the film's talents, a film that need not be filmed in metropolitan city but capturing the small town Americana feel in Arkansas, showing us that a film does not need a tremendous amount of money to create a major film but that this film is just fresh, unique and for the most part, a brilliant masterpiece from Billy Bob Thornton.

"SLING BLADE" is highly recommended!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I have finally gotten to watch (for the first of many times be certain) the entirety of the 2 DVDs of the re-released "Sling Blade", Billy Bob Thornton's masterpiece. The specific re-relased set of DVDs if really the subject of this review. Finally...a Special Edition CD that warrants the title "Special'. What a wonderful DVD. Every fan Billy Bob has is going to love it!!!!!!

SHAME ON the decision-makers who deprived the public of Billy Bob's insightful, informative, and very personal 'commentary' on the first DVD release. I have often pondered purchasing a used laser disc player in order to hear his words. I didn't ever, but believe me those words were worth waiting for. I don't usually watch the commentary of a film more than once, but I can say with certainty, I will watch this on a routine basis.

I am often disappointed when a Billy Bob film is released on DVD and he isn't on the commentary and/or featured very much in any of the additional special features. There was nothing disappointing about this group of special features and particularly about this commentary.

I loved the fact that we were made privy to so much of the behind-the-scenes information and so much of Billy Bob's personal likes, dislikes, goals, and feeling about this movie his fans have so grown to love and associate with his artistic genius. I was grateful too that he was the only voice on the commentary, because he IS the voice of this film.

The movie was definitely made more special by the additional footage, which was not a great deal more coverage in terms of length, but unlimited in its value of being exposed to more of Karl, and ultimately to the heart and thoughts of Billy Bob himself.

I have lost track of the number of times I have viewed the original film, but I am still blown away by every aspect of the film, and I still cry every time, even when it is separated only by hours in between, as when I watch the film today and then immediately thereafter the commentary. It was rewarding the me to note that small things I had noticed about the film, (but had no idea if they were my imagination at work, or deliberate or accidental, and if they have been noticed by many, many viewers) were indeed 'there' because of one circumstance or another during the filming.

How I have loved this story, these actors, and the entire beauty of this work and how I love it even more now that I have been given access to Billy Bob's special introspection.

Anyone who had been so kind as to read my reviews, of Billy Bob's films/music, may have noticed, I have never written a review of this movie. First off, I think the film speaks for itself and for Billy Bob and doesn't really need my humble input. Second, my feelings about the film are so 'deep and personal to me' and so 'respective and humbled-by-the-genius of Billy Bob', that I could never find the words to review the film in even a semi-objective manner. This little sound-off about this new DVD is the closest I will ever come to reviewing the film, and it is more about the DVD itself.

If by some unfortunate set of circumstances someone on this site has NOT seen this film, please, please give yourself the greatest gift of entertainment pleasure you ever could and watch the entire DVD set as soon as possible. For those who have seen the movie and liked it, if you haven't done so yet.....treat yourself to more and watch it again, but this time in all its glory .
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Sling Blade is an excellent, thought-provoking story about one man's return to society after being released from a mental instituation.
One of the great aspects of the film is simply Billy Bob Thornton's portrayel of Karl. Returning to the town he called home after 25 years in an institution, Karl must start life anew. Karl's simple nature is quite deceptive; althougth he has a calm and monotone manner about him, he is truly a complex individual who contemplates each person and situation from both sides before morally judging it. He is one of the more memorable characters because of his unique mannerisms (trust me, you may find yourself grunting the words "french fried potaters") and his plain honesty (he openly tells the boy he befriends exactly why he was locked up). Thornton, who also directed the film, does a masterful job at "becoming" the character of Karl.
The film delves into a vas range of issues that pervade our world: physical and psychological abuse, abandonment, acceptability of individualism. What makes the film unique is that these subjects are analyzed both internally (Karl calmly interalizing an argument between Linda, Frank and Doyle; Karl listening to another mental patient describe his crimes) and externally (Vaughan confronting Karl about his sexual orientation and love for Frank's family; Karl telling Vaughan that, despite what the Bible says, he is a good man). We feel the turmoil of vastly different individuals and personalities all trying to live under one roof.
One underlying question that pervades from the film is "what truly is a good human being?" That is, what qualities certify a benevolent individual versus, say, a reckless person. While the story has mostly inheritantly good charcters, Karl possesses characteristics that make him both good and bad (he has obviously murdered before, yet he seems to know the difference between good and bad). While Doyle (Linda's boyfriend) is depicted as a relatively abusive and flat character (one stereotype cannot hurt a film that much), Karl becomes a somewhat transformed individual who is symbolically altered due to his new relationship with Frank and his mother.
Overall, this was a quite touching, emotional story from Thornton. Although over 2 hours in length, the story progresses rather rapidly. It is told with a simple intention and premise, yet it is a film that is deeply complex.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2006
Format: DVD
"That Frank, he lives inside of his own heart. That's an awful big place to live in."

So gravels Karl, Billy Bob Thornton's unique husky-voiced creation as he describes the inner character of his friend and surrogate son- the innocent and pure Frank. Thornton could easily use this line to describe the broad and embracing spirit of his award-winning 1996 directorial debut, the contemporary classic SLINGBLADE.

Originally released in the halcyon days of independent film-making, the bygone era known as the 90's, SLINGBLADE deftly and eerily combines the wholesome everyman small town ideals of a Norman Rockwell painting with the morbid Southern Gothic tone of William Faulkner's best prose.

Filming in and around his Arkansasian home town, Thornton pulls off a creative hat trick - expanding his one man play and short film into a feature length celebration of salvation through grace and atonement through blood as staged in the backwoods and clapboard houses of rural America.

As a Director, Thornton holds his camera in capricious long shots and expanded takes, allowing his characters to exist in an exaggerated time and space, thereby empowering his actors to explore the nuances of their shadowy lives and share freely of their expansive hearts. Yes all of these people have secrets- Thornton rarely saturates his frame with full light. Bands of shadow wash across every character. Everybody has flaws- potential for good and evil in equal measure- even the villainous Doyle Hargraves (deliciously played by country-western star Dwight Yokum), deserving of Book of Revelation retribution as any character in recent memory, has his moments of vulnerability. The tragic wide-eyed ten year old Frank (played without any cloying sentiment by Lucas Black) too is capable of sudden violence when defending his mother.

Thornton shows he trusts his actors. With his continual use of long unbroken takes, he doesn't artificially create performances through imposed editing. These actors embrace the loud silences and large spaces and time and, as a result, appear to truly and organically erupt in moments of joy, compassion, humor and rage- all in the gentle lilting brogue of a brown water Arkansas drawl. The ensemble cast, made up of professionals (John Ritter in a heart-breakingly humane and admirable performance) and locals (several non-actors appear in effective support), alike never fail to hold the camera's eye.

The film is violent, but tastefully so. The bloodiest moments are reserved for off camera-employing the audience's imaginations to create far more vibrant images than any camera could provide- a lesson too many of Thornton's contemporaries forgot. The most violent and jarring moments occur in Thornton's elliptical dialogue. He understands the power of word pictures. He also displays a brilliant ability to oscillate a scene from chilling to hilarious to tragic on a turn of a phrase.

And at the center of this dark fairy tale is Thornton himself, transformed completely into the character of Karl Childers- a middle aged man recently released from "the nervous hospital". A literary descendent of The Frankenstein Monster, Lennie Small, Forrest Gump and Boo Radley (brilliantly realized in one of filmdom's most obscure "in jokes"- Robert Duvall appears unbilled as Childers' father), Karl rubs his hands with Lady MacBeth syndrome in guilt. With his high-water pants and hunched-over gait, centering himself from the bottom of his chin and speaking in a growling and grunting exhale Childers lends himself to instant imitation. But what no imitator can ever capture is the calm benevolence lurking behind Thornton's brown eyes.

Thornton's Karl Childers is one of the greatest characters ever created for film. Like the fatherless Frank, the simple minded Childers is pure of heart and in a state of grace and yet he possesses a terrifying capacity for violence. For inside those loving and forgiving eyes lies too a direct portal into what Karl himself would call "Hades". He is simple sure. But he is not simplistic. His heart, like the story-world he lives in is "an awful big place to live in."

An unforgettable film.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2006
Format: DVD
Set in a small, rural Southern town, Billy Bob Thornton`s "Sling Blade" is so flavorful in ambiance and tone, so rich in character and theme that it's hard to believe that its roots are not to be found in any short story or novel. For while it has all the earmarks of a great work of literature, "Sling Blade" is actually an original creation by Thornton, the triple threat talent who wrote, directed and stars in the work.

Karl Childers is a marginally retarded man who's been living in a mental institution ever since, as a child, he accidentally stumbled across his mother and her lover in a compromising position and, in a moment of considerable confusion, hacked the two of them to death. After being officially declared by the state to be "rehabilitated" and "cured," Karl is thrust back out into the world where he forms a bond with a fatherless boy, his hardworking, compassionate mother and a gay storeowner who has long since become a part of their extended family. Also part of that family is the widow's twisted boyfriend, Doyle Hargraves, who physically and psychologically abuses both mother and son.

Thanks to Carl's "strangeness" and homicidal background, as well as the simmering volatility and mercurial temperment of Doyle, there is always the threat of violence hanging ominously over the work. Yet, in many ways, "Sling Blade" is really about the goodness of people in their willingness to overlook external differences and to find the similarities that unite us all in a common bond of humanity. For the most part, the people in this quiet little community try to reach out and befriend Karl, sensing a decency in him that helps to mitigate any possible fear they might have of him based solely on surface eccentricities. Even when he is eventually forced into violent action, he does so as an avenging angel bringing swift and righteous justice, not as a murderous demon acting out of hatred or malice.

The acting in the film - beginning with Thornton himself - could not be more brilliant. With his stooped shoulders, tight-lipped smile, jutting jaw, vacant expression and guttural throat-clearing, Karl became the [...] of so many jokes back when the movie first came out that it's easy to forget what a truly amazing character - and job of acting - Thornton has pulled off here. The actor we've known from so many other movies is completely invisible in this role, as he literally becomes Karl in every fiber of his being and, in so doing, forces us to see the wisdom and humanity buried deep inside the person. The performance is such a touchstone of acting for our generation that it is easy to miss all the other great acting in the film, particularly on the part of Natalie Canerday, Lucas Black, John Ritter, J.T. Walsh, Robert Duvall and, most especially, Dwight Yoakam, whose portrayal of a man teetering on the edge of a psychopathic meltdown is bone-chilling and brilliant.

As a writer, Thornton has shaped his film like a modern day parable - simple, symbol-laden and allegorical. As a director, he proves himself a master of rhythm and pacing, setting the mood and allowing the scenes to play themselves out without recourse to overstatement or melodrama. In fact, this is one of those rare movies in which every moment feels just right, so confident is Thornton in his ability as a filmmaker to bring his story to life on screen. He also knows how to make the bucolic setting come across as both stark and sensuous at the same time, a place of quiet stillness that provides the perfect backdrop for the morality tale he is endeavoring to tell. Finally, Daniel Lanois has provided a haunting musical score that ever so subtly draws us into the disturbingly offbeat world of the drama.

"Sling Blade" earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Thornton, but he should also have won awards for his directing and his performance as Karl, not to mention the film itself which should have won the honor as Best Picture of 1996 - although Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, failed even to nominate it. Ah well, even with that lapse in judgment, "Sling Blade" remains one of the great movie dramas of the past decade.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2001
Format: DVD
I have rented this moview on VHS twice, and will be buying it on DVD. I will not attempt to explain the plot line, as numerous other reviews aleady have provided that for you. What I would like to share is how impressed I was with the way the story is told, and the outstanding portrayal of the two main characters. I have seen far too few scenes in films, when we forget that we are watching actors, and begin to feel that we are watching actual people involved in actual events. Billy Bob Thornton did an outstanding job directing and acting, and was deserving of an Oscar in portraying Karl so believably. A moving film that teaches us that intellectual skills are less important than moral skills, and that judgement of an action or a condition can often be far from the truth. Those who prefer exploding cars, lots of gunfire and special effects may want to pass on this, but if you like depth and look at films as art, you will love it!
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